ZBA Looks Favorably on Variances for Sen, Temple Adas Israel

ZBA members, from left, Susan Mead, Bob Plumb and chairman Robby Stein. Christine Sampson photo

A three-member quorum of the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals — down in membership due to the resignation of a board member and an alternate member — last Tuesday indicated favorable opinions, via straw polls, of variance requests by Temple Adas Israel and Sen restaurant.

With member Jennifer Ponzini and alternate Ted Pettus having resigned, and member Scott Baker simply absent from the meeting, all three members present — Susan Mead, Robert Plumb and chairman Robby Stein — needed to give their approval in order for projects to proceed for written decisions in the applicants’ favor. The ZBA gave applicants the option of postponing their presentations to a future meeting when, presumably, more members would be present to hear them make their cases.

Attorney Tiffany Scarlato, representing Sen, initially asked to postpone the discussion, but the three ZBA members wanted to hear some details. Sen was seeking a parking variance for three spaces in an effort to increase restaurant seating from 86 to 94 seats.

“Because you’re not having 10 to 12 employees coming in to take up spaces in the village, it’s an enormous benefit,” Mr. Stein said, referring to the tightly organized parking area behind the restaurant.

Ms. Mead agreed, saying it “far outweighs any issues with the variance,” and Mr. Plumb concurred as well. Because the straw poll was favorable, Ms. Scarlato and Jesse Matsuoka, one of Sen’s owners, will not have to return next month to restate their case.

When it came to Temple Adas Israel, the ZBA first needed to clarify whether the proposed renovations were to the historic temple or the more recent addition. The board members seemed satisfied when attorney Dennis Downes, representing the temple, said, “We are preserving the synagogue. It’s just the wing they put on some years ago and the access point.”

The temple is seeking variances for total lot coverage of an additional 7.4 percent and building coverage of 6.2 percent more. A front yard setback variance of 16.7 feet for the new exterior staircase was also sought, as well as a separate front yard setback variance for the new vestibule, considered a porch, of 2.9 feet. The new vestibule, Mr. Downes explained, is to allow for a lift that will bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Attorney Michael S. Bromberg pointed out an opinion out of New York State Supreme Court based on the case of Islamic Society of Westchester v. Board of Appeals of the Town of Greenberg that makes religious institutions’ zoning cases differ from typical real estate cases. Initially, Mr. Bromberg said, the Islamic Society was denied variances, but it won a state appeal because, he quoted, “there is an affirmative duty on the part of a local zoning board to measure and accommodate the planned use without causing religious institutions to incur excessive additional cost.”

After asking Temple Adas Israel to “work with its neighbors” during the construction, all three board members agreed in a straw poll the project should proceed.

Also last Tuesday, SagTown Coffee formally lost its appeal of the village building inspector’s conclusion that there had been an unauthorized change of use there. The ZBA, which heard attorney Brian DeSesa make a lengthy case on behalf of SagTown in September, upheld the building inspector’s decision. SagTown — which is still facing Justice Court proceedings over violations of its certificate of occupancy — will now appeal to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to somehow legalize its current use of the property.